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Super PACS gain power in 2012 election season

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney greets supporters after addressing a primary night victory rally in Manchester, N.H., January 10, 2012.

Jeremy Hobson: So usually, the morning after the New Hampshire primary, the winners, like Mitt Romney, are waking up to extra money in their coffers. And the losers are trying to decide whether they have enough money to continue. But this year, because of the existence of super political action committees -- or super PACS -- the decisions made by those
independent groups could be the ones that actually shape the race.

Our Washington bureau chief John Dimsdale reports.


John Dimsdale: It's been called the Tony Soprano strategy. Let your friends attack your opponents while you, the candidate, can stay above the dirty work.

Patrick Griffin: The campaign can run nothing but sweetness and light if the super PAC is willing to come in and spend the kind of money to define your opponent.

That's New Hampshire Republican strategist Patrick Griffin.

Griffin: The money in Iowa essentially removed Newt Gingrich from the conversation for N.H. The Romney super PAC literally took 20 points out of Newt Gingrich's hide in about twenty days.

Super PACs were allowed by a 2010 Supreme Court decision that got rid of limits on donations to independent political action committees -- or PACs. Super PAC spending will continue in the next primary in South Carolina, where Newt Gingrich will be back in the game. A Las Vegas supporter donated $5 million to a super PAC that supports Gingrich.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

About the author

As head of Marketplace’s Washington, D.C. bureau, John Dimsdale provides insightful commentary on the intersection of government and money for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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